Dimitar Dilkoff Agence France-Presse Demonstrators protested during the debate on the government's bill on immigration in the Senate, in Paris, last Monday.
On October 13, in Arras, jihadist Mohammed Mogouchkov assassinated French teacher Dominique Bernard. In the hour that followed, we learned that after six years of appeals, the family of this Ingush asylum seeker, who arrived in France in 2008, had still been refused asylum. On February 18, 2014, she was going to be deported when humanitarian and immigrant defense associations obstructed her, pushing the Minister of the Interior at the time, Manuel Valls, to cancel the expulsion.
This was all it took to illustrate to public opinion the dysfunctions of the right to asylum in France. The opportunity was a good one for the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, to recall that, according to the law he has just tabled in Parliament, Mohammed Mogouchkov could henceforth be subject to an obligation to leave French territory (OQTF) since this law will lift the ban on deporting foreigners who entered France before the age of 13 if their behavior “constitutes a serious threat to public order.”
For a week, French senators have begun studying this new law, which is far from being the first since, since 1980, it is the… 30th! For just over four decades, France has reviewed a new immigration law almost every two years. But for what results? we ask ourselves in the press, while legal and illegal migratory flows have never been so massive. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of residence permits increased by 47%, while that of asylum applications jumped by 227% since 2009.
This text is published via our Perspectives section.
For 40 years, the number of French people who consider that there are too many immigrants in France has practically never fallen below 50%. Despite promises, François Mitterrand’s call in 1988 to “reduce the number” of immigrants did nothing. No more than Nicolas Sarkozy’s “selected immigration” and François Hollande’s “intelligent immigration”. With the result that dissatisfaction with the government in this matter has today reached a peak of 74%, according to an Odoxa Backbone survey carried out for Le Figaro.
The carrot and the stick
In order to rally both the left and the right, the 27 articles of the new law offer an à la carte menu that uses both the carrot and the stick. “Firmness” and “simplification,” Darmanin repeated.
On the stick side, the conditions for family reunification will be tightened and expulsion procedures relaxed. Foreigners sentenced to ten years in prison will no longer benefit from the “protection from removal” they previously enjoyed. This would concern 4,000 people.
The bill adopted in the Senate also eliminates state medical aid (AME), which allows any illegal immigrant who has arrived in France for three months to receive free treatment. A report from the General Inspectorates published in 2019 found that expenses for heart transplants were 59% higher among patients covered by the AME compared to those of the general population. This particularly generous measure will be replaced by a system covering only emergencies. In addition, “people who apply for a long-term residence permit will not only have to take French lessons, but also pass a French exam,” also explained Gérald Darmanin.
On the carrot side, the law originally proposed to regularize illegal immigrants as long as they exercised a profession in demand. If this article was deleted in the Senate, it could return to the National Assembly. It is one of the most contested. The government puts forward figures of 200,000 to 400,000 jobs that cannot find candidates. Opponents, including certain unions, speak instead of a “bonus for illegality”. Not to mention that France still has an unemployment rate of 7%. “Can our country agree to give a bonus to illegal immigrants? » asked Professor Arnaud Lacheret and administrator Jean-Marc Pasquet in Le Figaro.
For weeks, negotiations have been going well in an attempt to rally Les Républicains (LR) and avoid the humiliation that would accompany a new recourse to the exceptional procedure of 49-3, used repeatedly since the re-election of 'Emmanuel Macron. To achieve this, the president even raised the possibility of broadening the scope of article 11 of the Constitution on the referendum to subjects which could affect societal questions as well as immigration.
A referendum on immigration?
In the Assembly, the idea of a referendum on immigration is defended by both the National Rally and the Republicans. “Changing the law is no longer enough,” believes the boss of LR deputies, Olivier Marleix, “since a judge can refuse to apply it under the pretext that it would be contrary to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. We must change the Constitution! » An idea supported by 65% of French people, according to a survey by the CSA institute for CNews.
For around twenty years, despite the 1,500 pages of the Code of Entry and Stay of Foreigners and the Right to Asylum (CESEDA), it is primarily the action of the courts which has broadened the rights of new arrivals. Thus the Constitutional Council has enshrined a principle of “fraternity” prohibiting the prosecution of activists who help foreigners to cross the border illegally. As recently as September 21, the Court of Justice of the European Union prohibited France from pushing back a foreigner who had crossed its border illegally without granting him a “certain period” allowing him to leave the territory “voluntarily.”< /p>
“Today, no one, neither at the top of the State nor at the counter of a prefecture, is capable of retaining the thousand subtleties of a law that has become inapplicable, especially since to jurisprudential decisions, laws and decrees are added circulars, published or not, whose effect is added to the rest”, declared to the magazine Le Pointprefect Michel Aubouin, former director of reception, integration and citizenship at the Ministry of the Interior.
Despite these compromises, the text adopted in the Senate could have difficulty passing in the National Assembly when it will be discussed there in December. The socialist deputy Philippe Brun also considers this new law unnecessary since, he says, “immigration is not at the heart of people’s demands”. For environmentalist senator Thomas Dossus, it is nothing more and nothing less than a “cabinet of horrors”.
Strangely, the most relaxed political leader on the subject is Marine Le Pen. The president of the elected representatives of the National Rally in the Assembly jokes about “a small law, with small measures which improve the situation a little”. If she says she can vote for it, she considers that “this is not what will solve the problem of illegal immigration”. Words delivered with the confidence of someone who seems convinced of heading towards a new victory in the European elections next June.